For Whom the Gel Tolls
Posted On Jul 20, 2016
BY ELIZABETH WELLINGTON
Walt Disney company executive Debbie McClellan speaks with her hands. Her fingertips must look fantastic all of the time. When gel nail polish—the quick-to-dry lacquer that solidifies to a chip-free finish—hit salons around 2008, she was hooked. “Gel was the only polish that would stay on my nails for three weeks,” McClellan says. “I loved everything about it.”
A few weeks before the 2013 holidays, McClellan felt soreness in her nail beds as she was having the polish removed. Her once-thick nails were now thin and brittle. “They were painful to touch,” she says. She has since stopped getting gel manicures, preferring to let her natural nails grow back.
When it comes to gel manicures, the devil is not in the application, but the removal. The polish goes on thicker than regular nail color, and is taken off by soaking nails in 99 percent acetone. The remaining polish is then scraped off with an orangewood stick. “Even if you are scraping lightly, you are still hurting the nail bed,” says Carla Kay, manicurist to the stars at Los Angelesbased hair, makeup, and styling agency Cloutier Remix. “Gel nail polish is great if you are about to go on vacation or get married. But for an everyday thing, it’s not good.”
That’s bad news for nick-prone girls. From Michelle Obama’s gray manicure to the flowery tips flaunted by New Girl actress Zooey Deschanel, smudge-free nails are this year’s must-have accessories, after all. As an alternative to gels, Kay suggests polishes and nail-strengtheners such as those offered by Sally Hansen. Kay’s favorite base coat is courtesy of Brooklyn-based Duri Cosmetics—a quick-dry product that strengthens the nails and smooths the surface to keep polish pretty and in place. Rejuvacote, Duri’s nail-strengthening serum, is packed with vitamins and minerals, and heals nails weakened from trauma (such as too many gel manicures).
Should you still yearn for a strong, shiny base upon which to display the season’s lilac, turquoise, and orchid hues, Vinylux by Creative Nail Design is a solid go-to. Vinylux—a base coat and polish in one—dries to a hard finish within 10 minutes and stays intact for up to seven days, says Linda DeSilvio, manicurist at New Jersey-based nail salon Suede. While you won’t necessarily be able to rummage around your purse minutes after a Vinylux manicure, you won’t have to laboriously scrape it off, either. A cotton swab and a little elbow grease will do the trick.